Skip to comments.Zimbabwe -- Mugabe seizes SA-owned company
Posted on 02/03/2004 10:32:11 AM PST by Clive
Zimbabwe's land seizures have escalated with the government's confiscation of the country's largest sugar producer, Hippo Valley.
The vast estate in the southeastern corner of the country annually produces 236,000 tons of sugar, estimated to be worth R524,8-million. Hippo Valley covers nearly 70,000ha and employs 6 000 full-time workers and 4,000 seasonal workers. With the Triangle sugar estate it produces all of Zimbabwe's sugar and exports large amounts to neighbouring countries.
Industrial plantations producing sugar, coffee, tea and timber had been exempt from President Robert Mugabe's seizures of white-owned farms, but an amendment to last month's Land Acquisition Act relaxed requirements to allow the government to confiscate the huge developments.
Mugabe's government designated Hippo Valley for acquisition. South Africa's mining giant, Anglo-American Corporation, has the controlling share of Hippo Valley.
"Hippo Valley estates have been designated and legal objections have been lodged with appropriate authorities," said a spokesperson for Anglo-American in Johannesburg. "Hippo management is in discussion with the local lands committee officials."
A Zimbabwean economist who declined to be named said: "This deals a huge blow to the private ownership of these agri-businesses, not just in Zimbabwe but in all of Africa. This is more than the seizure of a farm, it is the seizure of a large industrial development."
South African President Thabo Mbeki now faces either standing up for the property rights of Anglo-American, South Africa's largest corporation, or remaining silent on Mugabe's land seizures.
"The success of President Mbeki's New Partnership for Africa's Development rests upon a predictable investment climate," said Iden Wetherell, the editor of the Zimbabwe Independent. "The arbitrary confiscation of productive sugar estates, the product of years and years of investment and hard work, completely sabotages that initiative and Mbeki should be the first to say so."
Zimbabwe's sugar industry has developed since 1964, and Hippo Valley represents a vast investment to make the country self-sufficient in sugar. Its complex network of irrigation canals and the huge refinery plant are some of the biggest of their kind in Africa.
There is speculation as to what the government intends to do with the estate. One business analyst said: "If the government is going to hand it over to the state's agricultural and rural development authority, then we know it will be a disaster. Everything it has taken over has failed." -- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
If Mbeki allows this, he's either weak, insane, or planning a land grab of his own.
Surely Mugabe wouldn't be stupid enough to break this cash cow up into subsistence farms, depriving the gov't of much-needed income. Someone, perhaps Mugabe himself, will end up owning the entire farm with profits going to Mugabe and his cronies. How does this help the people of Zimbabwe? How about the 7,000 farm workers?
He'll remain silent. He has some seizures of his own planned in the future, and needs to make sure the precedent is well-established.